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Belize's growing tourism industry in good hands

A recent report from the Caribbean Tourism Organization crossed my desk the other day and confirmed what I'd been thinking for some time, and that is Belize is breaking out as the new 'must-see' destination in Central America. According to the CTO, Belize is the second fastest growing destination in its region with visitation recently growing by just over 10 percent.

Green Globe has been very active in Belize with hotel and resort members completing re-certification and this month Green Globe will address the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) on sustainable tourism issues. Having recently visited the country to document the achievements of our member properties, I was able to see how well the Belizeans are progressing in building an attractive and highly durable tourism sector that brings in over a USD$1 billion each year.

Green Globe member Hidden Valley Inn is located high in the mountains and its surrounding nature reserve was once forested for its timber. It is now home to a number of rare raptor species including the Orange Breasted Falcon and Stygian Owl. Local guide Fredy Pineda is a birding expert and also one of the few people to regularly sight the forest's other main attraction the Jaguar. The extensive hiking trails throughout the property lead to some of the tallest waterfalls in Central America as well as some of the most secluded and tranquil swimming holes.

In the lower jungles where the Howler Monkeys like to hang along the Macal River The Lodge at Chaa Creek, brings luxury accommodation to a magnificent rainforest setting. For two decades owners Mick and Lucy Fleming have dedicated most of their lives to developing this retreat from the original hut by the river, to a carefully curated eco-resort with a range of luxury villas made of local timbers and traditional thatch.

Out on the Barrier Reef on the Island of San Pedro is one of Belize's original dive resorts, Xanadu Island Resort. Owners Ivan and Judy Shienbaum started with a mobile home camped in the littoral forest along this coral caye. Today they still host adventurers from around the world coming to enjoy some of the most sought after dive experiences on the planet. Their resort is made up of a collection of geodesic domes that are not only unique in architectural style, but also impervious to the occasional hurricane that comes barreling in from the Caribbean Sea.

All of these Green Globe resorts manage their environment superbly and are real contributors to local social and economic development. Xanadu continues to this day to protect the forest around its resort with nature walks and interpretation for the guests. Chaa Creek manages its own organic farms to provide freshly grown produce and has also established the best natural history museum in the country. And up in the mountains, Hidden Valley provides school kids from the local villages with an annual training camp to teach life skills and extra-curricular education.

With tourism businesses like these continuing to contribute to the protection of their natural settings and neighboring communities, Belize's tourism industry is in good hands as it grows to be a pillar of the country's economic future.

Bradley Cox, Director Communications Green Globe



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